Monday, July 15, 2013

The twelve days of Latvija: Day 12, pazudušais dēls

Our trip had come to an end, and in the early morning twilight we were already in a taxi on the way to the airport with two pajama-clad children in arms. I glanced back at the Rīga skyline from the Vanšu bridge, in disbelief that our time in Latvia was already over. As always, the days passed much too quickly for my liking, too rapidly to accomplish all I wanted to do and see in the small country that owns such a big piece of my heart.

This mass exodus of people after the festival, by car, train and bus back to cities and towns all across Latvia, by plane and boat to countries across the globe, it brought me back to the parade that took place on Rīga's streets last Sunday, the final day of the Latvian National Song and Dance Festival.

The Dziesmu Svētku flag leading the parade
On Sunday morning, before the 7pm start of the final concert, more than 40,000 people paraded down Brīvības iela, starting at the Freedom Monument, Brīvības piemineklis, and ending at Dailes teātris, about 1.2 kilometers away. Every single participant was a member of one of the 1,500 choirs, folk-dancing troupes, folk ensembles, brass bands or theatre companies from across Latvia and the world, and it took over six hours for the entire procession to complete the route.

The famous 100 year-old conductor, Roberts Zuika
According to police estimates, over 100,000 spectators lined the route. Cheering on the participants was a sport, with “lai dzīvo ….” (long live, and the town/name of group) echoing up and down the boulevard. Often the lines of onlookers would break, as someone ran out to greet a friend with flowers, only to dart back in without the participants having missed a beat.

Our crew, awaiting the chance to shower friends with flowers
The brass bands filled the streets with their lively music, and many a choir marched while singing, raising arms filled with flowers to acknowledge well-wishers. Despite the heat of the day the dance troupes advanced dancing the polka, or occasionally other complicated dance steps.

Best seat in the house
Row after row of colorful national folk costume paraded past, representing every region and city in Latvia. The ornate vaiņagi on the girls’ heads were each more beautiful than the last, and the metal mēlītes lining some of the costumes and men’s boots rang with a harmonious jingle.

Alsungas region folk costumes, what I wore as a girl
For me the most emotional moment came when the seven American groups marched past. I have a few friends in the folk dancing group Namējs from Washington DC who have been busy this past year learning the steps and organizing fundraisers, and family members in the NY Latvian choir that numbered over 50. My hometown Chicago was represented with the men’s choir that has traveled to Latvia for the festival since 1990, and Jautrais Pāris from Indianapolis was there with dancers 3rd generation American born, giving me hope that Lauris and Mikus will have this opportunity one day. California was represented with a choir and a folk dancing group, and watching these familiar places and faces march past, I reflected on the distances traveled by each of these individuals. They had crossed vast expanses, not only to practice and now perform, but also bridging a gap between the US and Latvia, proving that Latvians across the world can come together and sing/dance as one.

This is the thought that stayed with me until we reached the chaos that was called the Air Baltic ticket counter in RIX; that despite the geographical divide, the differing speech patterns and the divergent paths our lives took, even far from the homeland we’ve never lived in - we still have much to offer, we still can come together as one, we still are Latvian.

Lūgšana, Leonīds Breikšs (izvilkums)
Tāpēc lūdzam šajā dienā: Kungs, no sava troņa kāp!
Nāc un pārstaigā šo zemi, kamēr tā vēl sauli jauž,
Nāc un sakausē mūs klintī, lai neviens mūs nesalauž.
          Nāc un svētī mūs un vieno un mums darba spēku dod,
          Lai reiz liktenīgā stundā negaida mūs briesmīgs sods.
Šodien, Kungs, mēs tevi lūdzam: neļauj latvjiem mirt un zust,
Liec mums vienmēr tavu sauli brīviem pāri galvām just -
          Līdz tiem laikiem, kuŗus šodien nezin vēl no mums neviens,
          Mūžam brīvs lai latvju ērglis, savus spārnus sizdams, skrien!
Lai pret nezināmiem laikiem cauri mūžiem ejam mēs,
Dod mums spēku, dod mums drosmi, dod mums vienprātību, tēvs!

Prayer, Leonīds Breikšs (loose translation of an excerpt)
And so we pray on this day: Lord, descend from Your throne!
Come and walk this land, while it still feels the sun,
Come and melt us into a rock that no one can break.
          Come and bless us, unite us, give us strength for our work,
          So that in the final hours a horrible fate does not await us.
Today, Lord, we pray: do not let the Latvian people die and disappear,
Let us always feel Your sun on our heads -
          Until the times, which today not one of us yet knows about,
          Forever free may the Latvian eagle fly, beating its wings!
So that we may face the unknown through the ages,
Give us strength, give us bravery, give us unanimity, Lord!

1 comment:

  1. This whole trip sounded like such an amazing time. Thanks for sharing it with us.


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